2014-03-13 - Manners
Tuxedo Mask goes to find Mami Tomoe to see if he can unload the Star Shard on her, because she disabled him and Usagi trusts her. The things that define competence and trustworthiness in Mamoru's world are not the things that define competence and trustworthiness in most other people's worlds, but what can you do.
| OOC - IC Date:|
OOC 3/13/2014 - IC erm, the day after the last one posted
The evening stretches on, the wind blowing through the city streets even in the less-crowded parts of the district. Here, outside the notable stores and the huge streets, there are a few very nice apartment buildings and other areas of note to people who might want to /live/ in the city. Spacious, modern, and above all, /expensive/, they rise up into the sky.
But down on the ground, one Mami Tomoe sits on a bench, having only just arrived not terribly long ago. She's in a yellow dress, wearing boots and a coat against the chill, and has in both hands a cup from which she sips tea. She is, perhaps, getting some air. ...She hasn't exactly had the best week, thus far.
But it affords her a nice view of people passing by, few as they might be. It's just that she happens to be paying closer attention than most might imagine.
The wind blows the occasional scattered bit of paper or leaf, and gusts of heat filter through from exhaust vents here and there, and the lights from apartment building windows dance on every reflective surface. It may be less crowded here, but noise pollution from traffic and citywalkers streets away bounce off the tall buildings and dimly flood the air.
Gradually enough to be almost unnoticeable, these sounds fade. The rushing of water pipes below the sidewalks and pavement, and the humming of electricity and insects become more noticeable; a night bird chuckles in the tree nearest Mami's bench, then quiets.
In that hush, the sudden aggravation of pigeons and a vast flapping of the wings of multiple birds is a loud sound indeed, and close. So close. Behind her and to one side of the bench. Like someone's disturbed them.
But-- there's no one there.
"She loves you a great deal," comes a quiet voice, heard but once before, from the far end of the bench.
Leaning back, top hat held loosely in two white-gloved hands and one tailored-tuxedo ankle crossed over the other knee, Tuxedo Mask regards Mami Tomoe from behind his bright white mask, one corner of his mouth lifted slightly. "And trusts your judgement. Can we speak elsewhere?"
The noise pollution remains a sign of its own sort of life; the lights are on, people are talking (sometimes arguing), and on and on the city goes. ...Thouh frankly Mami prefers being a little more distant from the cars as she largely is at the moment.
The bird does cath her attention, and Mami's eyes cant that way. What could it be...?
No, no one is there. But--
As a rule, the Puella Magi is terribly composed. Even so, even without showing it, the voice getting past her watchful eye is surprising. She turns her head back towards the sound at the end of the bench.
Who 'she' is hardly has to be said. ...Right?
"My, you /are/ impatient," Mami replies with a wry smile. "One usually says 'hello' before starting a conversation. Still, it's nice for the endorsement."
Mami pauses, a moment, considering. "...Very well. Follow me. I'll get you some tea, and you can tell me what you want to discuss." She stands up, and walks towards the nearby building.
Standing and putting on his hat in one smooth motion, the young man smiles a little more -- though still crookedly -- and bows slightly. "Your patience and hospitality," he says, wry met with wry, "honor me."
Instead of following, quite, the tall masked mystery makes sure he stays in Mami's peripheral vision. It's almost a pattern: one more iteration of the behavior type, and it won't be coincidence. Respect for martial prowess. If you startle someone who can kick your ass, in other words, it damn well better be from the far side of the bench.
Apparently, even transit is too insecure for what Tuxedo Mask wants to discuss: maybe he's just crazy paranoid.
"It's terribly awkward to stand around just outside the door talking anyway, isn't it?" ...Though really Mami Tomoe might just be a little bit more inclined to be pleasant after the news about Sailor Moon. Maybe. Not that she's going to /say/ so, obviously.
The crooked smile, too, was enough for the moment; despite the fact that she is still not terribly /well/, she has a sort of amusement to her as she walks along. And... Notices... that she can keep seeing him.
That does make the trip somewhat quiet, however. She neglects to mention that just in case she'd rather be on familiar ground, or with a certain someone who may be at her apartment now as well. But that's just practical.
Regardless, she eventually reaches the floor and door at which she resides, and turns the key in the lock with little pretense. "Here we are." The apartment is very lage, with a great big window taking up much of the wall; it is also clean, and carefully appointed, with bright colors and pillows here and there, as well as a notable kitchen and a little triangular table. "Have a seat," she offers, and before she is willing to do any business discussion, she sets down a cup of tea and a slice of cake.
Only /then/, "Well, you are rather mannerly when you aren't in such a rush. I hope your business is as pleasant. What did you wish to discuss?"
The discomfort Tuxedo Mask feels at this-- terribly mundane and hospitable situation! is actually faintly visible, though he is, in fact, doing his level best to hide it. He hesitates a second before sitting down, starts to do so, then stops and takes off his hat and his cape. The cape, granted, involves an unfairly graceful swoop; the top hat disappears unceremoniously in its matte black and rose red folds.
Once he's seated, he seems to regain his composure, as the movement of his long-fingered hands is elegant as he correctly removes his gloves. "Thank you," he says graciously.
This too shall pass, Tuxedo Kamen. This too shall pass.
It's with cup of tea held perfectly in his hands that the youth first sips, then looks up at Mami. His blue-eyed gaze is steady, and now his expression is reservedly apologetic. "I'm afraid," he says, "it is not a pleasant business. It involves one of the Star Shards, those after it, and its current disposition. Do you know anything about Sailors Neptune and Uranus?"
On the other hand Mami Tomoe has just stepped into her element. ...She doesn't mention anything about what she can see in his expression, or about the hesitation, but instead simply goes on about her business as if nothing at all might be wrong.
...She does, however, give an approving look to the terribly elegant way in which Tuxedo Mask readies himself for the situation at hand. Now that /is/ something.
"Of course," she answers. The tea, for the record, is a black tea with hints of rose in it. There is sugar if desired, as well as the other appropriate additions. ...For her part, Mami may look smaller in civilian attire, her hair out of its characteristic drills, but her gaze too is steady. "I see," she answers. "Not pleasant, but still important. I'm familiar with them, of course, and for the Sailors..." She considers her phrasing thoughtfully, sipping her refreshed tea as she does.
"Some. I've interacted with them before. I believe that their intentions are sincere and for the best. ...I don't, however, know many details about them. They're rather more secretive than Sailor Moon."
The young man makes a thoughtful sound, though his face is shadowed briefly at the end of Mami's last statement. "Rather more secretive than they should be if they expect willing cooperation," he says, his tone of voice observational, starkly nonjudgemental. He sips the tea again, then leans to put it down and gamely pick up the cake.
There may be the slightest of rattles of the fork against the china as Tuxedo Mask's manners conflict with his image. Again. Or the tiny ~tink~ may just, after all, be coincidence.
Words will strengthen his resolve, he decides. He will eat this cake. For the moment, he holds it motionless in his hands, gaze on Mami again. "I have no reason to trust them with the Shard given the behavior they displayed when they sought it from me. I've been told that these things are alien, that they invade people, and aren't meant to be in them. I've also been told that the fate of the world may rest upon them. I have no reason to doubt the latter. The former-- do you know? Are they foreign to the people they come from? Or do they rightly belong to those they've been taken from?"
...a bite of cake.
"I can't fault secrecy in this world," Mami says, though her tone is conversational, rather than particularly argumentative. "Even setting aside those of evil intent, there are many who simply don't know how to handle the responsibilities that looking into these matters brings. Openness and trust is a luxury few of us can really rely on."
The fork is small. The cake is not a terribly large portion, though his is somewhat bigger than hers. But then, Tuxedo Mask is a good deal taller than Mami Tomoe.
"I don't know for sure," she admits, still holding her tea in both hands. "But they don't seem at all healthy for the hosts; it causes them great pain to emit one of these shards. And I've never seen their like before. So either they are alien, or something has changed to begin extracting them where previously they were silent."
The cake is exceptionally sweet.
"...What I have gleaned is that they can be used to grant a wish of some kind, when brought together. They have power, and that power is something people will want to use."
Exceptionally sweet cake results in Tuxedo Mask taking a couple of bites and then very much needing some of that tea. So he switches them around; he sips before speaking again.
This is not unusual at all, this is not uncomfortable, this is... Mamoru Chiba is a determined person. He can get through this. He can eat the cake and drink the tea and not vanish in mid-conversation to go agonize on the roof over the clash of etiquette and mystery. He can eat the cake.
"I don't," he says upon reflection, "want that power. As long as a piece is missing, that power cannot be used. Their argument was that they need the shard in my possession, and that it was useless to me, and that every moment I have it is more time for the Dark Kingdom to wrest it from me, someone incapable of protecting it. It seems," his voice slows, "that the most responsible thing to do would be to prevent the shards from coming together at all. Those two claim to have the others, though I'm not certain I believe that."
Tuxedo Mask takes another sip of tea, then sets the cup down once more, willing himself to pick up the cake and finish it so it's over with--
it really is delicious
--and make sure not to scarf it down. Like Usagi. But for different reasons.
"They've made it clear that should I refuse them again, they will force it from me. It does not seem like a responsible course of action, handing it over to people who would go to such lengths to acquire it. They will find me again. If I give it away before then, they'll try to get the identity of the person I gave it to, and I can't stand against them alone; I will lose that fight, and I don't know if I can be made to tell the truth unwillingly. So-- the person I give it to--"
A small inhalation; self-steadying. Tuxedo Mask's expression is calm, and his gaze goes briefly distant; he looks vaguely over Mami's shoulder. "--must be someone who can beat them. Or who can determine whether they truly know what they are doing, holding a power like that, and whether their intentions are truly benevolent, and whether they can stand against the Dark Kingdom coming after it."
Then the mystery man's blue eyes focus sharply on Mami Tomoe once more. "Sailor Moon trusts you. She trusts too easily, perhaps, but her heart's judgement is sound. Are you capable of protecting the Shard, or of doing what's necessary to see it safely where it needs to go?"
Mami watches Mamoru switch to tea almost as if she'd planned it. ...But she does the same, actually, having a small bite of cake while she listens in turn and certainly cannot read the war of thoughts occuring in his mind.
But he doesn't... /want/ it?
"Would it be too tempting to use?" Mami wonders aloud, though it is no idle question--she watches his eyes as she voices it. "I can't speak to whether what they said was accurate. ...But I don't agree about that course of action. It only delays the problem, waits on resolving it. And if we can't choose the terms on which it comes out, then those terms could put innocents in danger."
But it would seem they are indeed serious. Tuxedo Mask continues his explanation, and the blonde girl listens and watches both the entire time. And then, she is quiet. She looks back, but her expression is softer than it was, distant in turn just as his was a moment ago.
"...You should be aware, if you consider entrusting it to me. Before I fought the two of them, I was gathering the shards myself. I had something I was willing to seek that level of power to gain. As I suspect do a lot of people, really; we all have wishes, desires... Things important to us. Whether others agree that they should be important or not, it's still true."
"I appreciate Sailor Moon's trust. ...But I should tell you the reason that I'm inclined to trust them. You see--together, I can't defeat them. I stopped Sailor Uranus, but Neptune was there, only stronger for it. The bond they share is something I don't think I have the right to harm, but it's also why I believe in their sincerity. They can do more together than I could alone, and watching them I can't conclude that they don't mean well."
Mami sets down her tea again, finally. "...But that doesn't mean that giving it to them is necessarily the right move, either. Good intentions aren't always enough. If you entrust me with it, I'll do my best to understand what these shards are, so we know what to do with them."
Listening to Mami with almost his complete attention allows Tuxedo Mask to use the last part of it to politely finish his cake by the time she's done. No great weight lifts from his shoulders at an uncomfortable (but exceptionally sweet) task's completion, but he seems more at ease with the cake cone and the tea in his hands. He's sipping it again as she makes things clearer, and his hands lower, still holding it.
Finally, Tuxedo Kamen says in quiet agreement, "They move as one. If only it were possible to tell-- if they stand for the same things as Sailor Moon-- it would be easy to trust them."
Finishing his tea and placing the empty cup back on the table, the man straightens in his seat and regards Mami. His tone is gentle and his expression is resonant with an understanding sympathy. "I know-- what it's like." A beat. "To wish for things that seem impossible. To want something with so deep and consuming a desire that a kind of madness seeps in, demands to take over.
"But I have faith that if I am meant to have that which I desire, my work in achieving it will come to fruition." He spreads his hands, then drops them in his lap. "This, though-- they said it was greater than I am. I agree. But something so great is surely also more than they are. I--"
For a second, he looks down, considering. Then he looks up at Mami again, and his gaze is steady and depthless, young and ancient, bitterly sad and eternally hopeful. "I will entrust you with it. But if you'll let me, I will help you with it. And that'll be two. If you ask them for help, the senshi who stand with Sailor Moon are-- I think-- more likely to give it to you than to me, and that will make you stronger still."
There is a moment where Mami considers whether she ought to put out more cake. She declines, for the moment. Instead, when she finishes, she returns to sipping her tea, the honey in it doing a lot for her extended speaking just at the moment.
"Easy would be nice," Mami comments, not quite sighing but clearly tempted to do so.
But that...? "...I see. Well, I'm glad to understand you a little better then, Tuxedo Mask." She smiles, een. She has to wonder what his wish could be like--how he's able to resist the temptation so easily as he seems to--and yet...
The strange look in his eye prevents her from thinking about almost anything else. Even Mami Tomoe can't help but be inspired, if only some, by the way Tuxedo Mask speaks. "Two, and then more still. It's a reasonable way, isn't it? We can do more together."
But, the moment passes, and here the Puella Magi looks away, towards her window, pensively. "I don't work well with others, I'm afraid. So this will have to be temporary. But we both have interest in this matter, and I won't refuse your help."
Turning back, "But one of these days I'll have to ask what your interest in Sailor Moon /is/."
He's motionless as Mami speaks, again, but not like a statue-- too alive, too intent, too present. There's a brief nod, an acknowledgement of the temporary nature of the alliance; his face doesn't betray anything else.
Until that last little bit.
And then Tuxedo Mask starts to pull his gloves back on, smiling a little. The spell's broken, the weight of his attention is scattered, it evens out. "You deserve," he says, standing up and sweeping his cape off the back of the chair where he'd folded it, putting it on in a swirl of black and red and starlight, "to be the third to know, after myself, and after Sailor Moon. I can assure you that I have nothing but her well-being in mind."
When the cape settles, he's standing tall in Mami's living room, holding his top hat and looking more like a magician than ever. Especially when he reaches into the hat and pulls out the Shard, glowing gold in his white-gloved hand.
Wordlessly, he offers it.
The last little bit, that turns out to just raise even /more/ questions. Mami sets down her tea as Tuxedo Mask begins to prepare himself to rise, standing as well, because after all he is her guest, for the moment.
"Is that how it is?" she asks, lifting an eyebrow. "Well, I suppose it's only fair that those two individuals would come ahead of me." She says, as if one of them isn't Tuxedo Mask himself. "I hope you don't find that the reason is something you don't like very much after all."
She grows slightly more serious, but doesn't follow up with words.
Instead, she stands there, not near as tall as the caped man, especially not with his hat. Instead, she reaches out with both hands, and accepts the Shard.
Like it or not... This is her responsibility.
"Take care, Tuxedo Mask. Is there a way I should contact you, if necessary?"
Briefly, the smile turns into a smirk-- funny girl. But then Mami's serious, and so is he: it's the first time he's looked startled, openly.
Obviously, it's never occurred to him that the reason for his interest in Sailor Moon might not be one he likes. But just as obviously, it's dismissed after a moment's consideration. "As long as she's safe," he says firmly, "I don't care."
As the Shard leaves his hand, he watches Mami's face, her eyes. The way she moves, the way she holds it. She's accepted the responsibility, and Tuxedo Kamen places his hat on his head, the glint of light off the lenses of his mask momentarily obscuring his eyes.
Momentarily. Because now he's grinning, and the fact that it crinkles the sides of his eyes, that it's real, is quite clear. "Yes, but I'll have to get you the number in the morning," he answers her. And then he touches the brim of his hat, and the grin doesn't go away, and before he disappears out the door
the last thing
is a wink.